Benevento is a town and archiepiscopal see of Campania, Italy, capital of the province of Benevento, 32 miles Northeast of Naples.

It is situated on a hill 400 ft. above sea-level at the confluence of the Calore and Sabbato. Estimated population in 1997 was 63,568.

Benevento occupies the site of the ancient Beneventum, originally Maleventum or Maluentum (meaning "the site of bad wind" - some authors also proposed it could mean "a place of crazy people", as in ancient times it was supposed that mad people had a sort of wind storm inside their head). It is supposed to have been founded in the imperial period by Diomedes.


It was the chief town of the Samnites, who took refuge here after their defeat by the Roman Republic in 314 BC. It appears not to have fallen into the hands of the latter until Pyrrhus's absence in Sicily, but served them as a base of operations in the last campaign against him in 275 BC.

A Latin colony was planted there in 268 BC, and it was then that the name was changed for the sake of the omen, and probably then that the Via Appia was extended from Capua to Beneventum. It remained in the hands of the Romans during both the Punic and the Social Wars, and was a fortress of importance to them.

The position is strong, being protected by the two rivers mentioned, and the medieval fortifications, which are nearly 2 miles in length, probably follow the ancient line, which was razed to the ground by Totila in 542.

After the Social War it became a municipium and under Augustus a colony.

Being a meeting point of six main roads, it was much visited by travellers.

Not long after it had been sacked by Totila, Benevento became the seat of a powerful Lombard duchy and continued to be independent until 1053, when the emperor Henry III ceded it to Leo IX in exchange for the bishopric of Bamberg; and it continued to be a papal possession until 1806, when Napoleon granted it to Talleyrand with the title of prince.

In 1815 it returned to the papacy, but was united to Italy in 1860.

Manfred lost his life in 1266 in battle with Charles of Anjou not far from the town.


Much damage has been done by earthquakes from time to time.

The importance of Benevento in classical times is vouched for by the many remains of antiquity which it possesses, of which the most famous is the triumphal arch erected in honour of Trajan by the senate and people of Rome in 114, with important reliefs relating to its history (E. Petersen in Romische Mitteilungen, 1892, 241; A. von Domaszewzki in Jahreshefte des Osterreich. archeologischen Instituts, ii., 1899, 173).

There are also considerable remains of the ancient theatre, a large cryptoporticus 197 ft. long known as the ruins of Santi Quaranta, and probably an emporium (according to Meomartini, the portion preserved is only a fraction of the whole, which once measured 1791 ft. in length) and an ancient brick arch (called the Arco del Sacramento), while below the town is the Ponte Lebroso, a bridge on the Via Appia over the Sabbato, and along the road to Avellino are remains of thermae.

Many inscriptions and ancient fragments may be seen built into the houses; in front of the Madonna delle Grazie is a bull in red Egyptian granite, and in the Piazza Papiniano the fragments of two Egyptian obelisks erected in 88 in front of the temple of Isis in honour of Domitian. In 1903 the foundations of this temple were discovered close to the Arch of Trajan, and many fragments of fine sculptures in both the Egyptian and the Greco-Roman style belonging to it were found. They had apparently been used as the foundation of a portion of the city wall, reconstructed in 663 under the fear of an attack by Constans II, the Byzantine emperor, the temple having been destroyed under the influence of the bishop, St Barbatus, to provide the necessary material (A. Meomartini, 0. Marucchi and L. Savignoni in Notizie degli Scafi, 1904, 107 sqq.).

The church of Santa Sofia, a circular edifice of about 760, now modernized, the roof of which is supported by six ancient columns, is a relic of the Lombard period; it has a fine cloister of the 12th century constructed in part of fragments of earlier buildings; while the cathedral with its fine arcaded façade and incomplete square campanile (begun in 1279) dates from the 9th century and was rebuilt in 1114.

The bronze doors, adorned with bas-reliefs, are good; they may belong to the beginning of the 13th century.

The interior is in the form of a basilica, the double aisles being borne by ancient columns, and contains ambones and a candelabrum of 1311, the former resting on columns supported by lions, and decorated with reliefs and coloured marble mosaic. The castle at the highest point of the town was erected in the 14th century.

This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica. Please update as needed.